Journeying on a drum
It is important to maintain the correct drumbeat when journeying, which is traditionally around about 4-6 beats per second. Any slower than this may make journeying more difficult.
The drumbeat changes the structure of the brainwaves and sends a person into a semi-trance, which could be described as a cross between a dream and a meditation. It can take a good few minutes to achieve this dream state especially in the beginning, it’s not a matter of journeying as soon as the beat begins.
Its usual to repeat the intent to yourself as the journey is about to begin. The leader will then maintain the drum beat for as long as he or she is guided to or, they will ask you to make some physical signal to say when you have achieved your intent.
They will use the call-back beat which doesn’t need to follow a set pattern, it just needs to be significantly different to the journey beat. As the call-back beat begins you will need to thank whoever you have been communing with and retrace your steps back to your starting point. This may be the place that you were guided to by voice, or it may be what’s called your axis mundi, a place in nature that you hold in your imagination as your starting point. You can back-track at any speed. It’s important as this will ensure that you are grounded and fully present on your return to this reality.
Journeying with protection
It is traditional to journey with protection. Your power animal is suited to this task, however if you don’t have one visualise Wolf, Owl or Eagle accompanying you. Not all shamanic journeyers use power animal protection but it’s a good practice to use as you deepen into the technique until you feel more confident about journeying alone.
Journeying with entheogens
Many cultures journey using plant enthogens – ayushca, san pedro cactus, peoto cactus, magic mushrooms or even fly agaric toadstool. Many of these are controlled drugs so while we can’t endorse their use we can mention that they have been and are used for journeying. If you decide to journey with any of these enthogens, it’s very important to take great care, like many hallucinogenic drugs they can be. Fly agaric in particular is highly poisonous and is best avoided unless you really know what you are doing and are with an experienced worker. When journeying with the drum it’s easy to come back at a time of your choice, with hallucinogens you don’t have the same options!
The axis mundi and the journey
The axis mundi is a place in nature that you can easily, somewhere you feel safe and welcome. It’s somewhere where you can journey downwards or upwards, a tree is the prime example, but equally it could be a rabbit hole, cave, water fall, or a hill. This is your starting point and your return point. The journey often takes one of two forms. You can be guided by voice into the Lower or Upper world and then the journeyer will take you to a specific point and wait there while you journey on the drum and then guide you back by meditation, however it’s more common for the journeyer to simply drum you and let you find your own way to whichever realm is chosen or calls you. And as you journey and meet people, animals, plants and objects that you can have a conversation with it’s important to question everything to make sure you are happy with their answers. If you meet a new spirit being ensure you are comfortable with what it is telling you before trusting it’s every word. Your power animal will aid you in discerning who is on your side.
It’s important to journey with an intent rather than aimlessly wander around the realms. The intent can be as simple as having a look around the Lower World which is fine, as long as you have an intent. If the journey ever seems to be going off track recall the intent to mind and focus on your breath.
Once the journey is over it’s best to write down or dictate the details for future reference, the deeper into trace you go the more difficult it can be to recall the details from the dream like state. Often it is only by revisiting the journaled journey that we can get to understand the full importance of any wisdom or guidance we were given.
If you meet someone or something and you find it difficult to understand the details of what you are being told, ask your power animal or guide to interpret or to explain, and also never be afraid to ask further questions. You may not always get full clarity, this may come on a further journey or during a dream, meditation or period of quiet contemplation.
Meeting your power animal
If you are journeying to meet your power animal, and you have a sense that you have met it, ask for confirmation, ask what medicine it brings for you, and ponder on this information, writing down your thoughts. Your own given insights are more important than what a text book will tell you, although you may find it affirming and helpful to consult one of the standard textbooks or indeed to do a google search on your particular power animal / animal spirit guides.
An excellent book which provides a full introduction to shamanism is Earth Magic by Stephen Farmer who has also written a useful reference book called Animal Spirit Guides which we thoroughly recommend.